An explanation, and suggestions for 20 training drills, of the principles described in George Silver’s two works Paradoxes of Defence published and printed by Edward Blount 1599 and Brief Instructions [Sloane manuscript no.376] circa 1604-51 not published in Silver’s lifetime but in 1898 by Col. C.G.R. Matthey and reproduced by Sword Works in 2008.
In these works, Silver expounds upon the True Fight and advantage of the ancient short sword, particularly if it has a basket hilt, over the rapier, which lacks a true defence for the hand. “It will be objected [to] that in the wars we use few rapiers or none at all, but short [arming] swords. To this I answer: those are insufficient also, for that they have no [single basket] hilts, whereby they are insufficient [without a buckler] in their defence and especially for the hand, which being struck although with a very small blow, most commonly is the loss of a man” (Silver, Paradoxes of Defence, 1599, p. v EB). “Yet they [foreigners] persuade us that the rapier without hilt or gauntlet is sufficient,” (Silver, The Works of George Silver, 2008, p. 3 EB) but “to seek for a true defence in an untrue weapon is to angle on the earth for fish and to hunt in the sea for hares” (Silver, Paradoxes of Defence, 1599, p. iii).
An excerpt from Saviolo’s ‘His Practice’ shows that warding in this manor would require a glove of maille, which appeared to be common practice in Italy, not to be grievously wounded. “Let the schollerpasse with his leftev foote where his right was, and with all let him turne his hand, and not loose the opportunity of this blow, which must be a foyne in the manner of a thrust under his Rapier, and let him lifte up his hand with his ward that he be garded and lie not open, meeting with his left hand the rapier of his teacher, and let him not beat aside the blow with his Rapier for heeendangereth the point and bringes his life in hazard, because he loseth the point” and “and let him lifte up his other hand with his ward on high, that he be not stricken on the face with the Mandritta, or in the belly with the thrust or Stoccata.”(Saviolo, Vincentio. VincentioSaviolo His Practice.: In Two Bookes. The First Intreating of the Use of the Rapier and Dagger.The Second, of Honor and Honorable Quarrels.1595.)
Unlike Saviolo, Giganti affirms this, “If by chance a gentleman armed only with sword and dagger, is assaulted by an armoured enemy with a heavy sword, if he wishes to parry with his dagger it is dangerous. Without gloves, if his hand is hit he will undoubtedly throw his dagger to the ground, and otherwise his dagger will not bear the great blow” (Terminiello, P. (2013) p. 33).
I will discuss the essentials of chapters one through five and seven to nine of Brief Instructions, bringing relevant quotes and period techniques together for the purpose of teaching the ‘ancient principles of the ‘True Fight’ including various supporting quotes and notes from other chapters of Silver’s works and other relevant period treatises. I have modernised the orthography and punctuation of this work where necessary to maintain a more modern readability of the whole while maintaining the flavour of the period. “Manuals of fence had been published already by Marozzo in 1536, by Agippa in 1553, by Grassi in 1570 [translated in English by J.G in 1594] and by Viggiani in 1575, in Spain Don Jeronimo Sanchez de Carranza had written his Filosofia de las Armas in 1569, and all these books had reached England” (Aylward, 1956, p.57) by 1595. The intention is to fill the gaps in Brief Instructions where Silver assumed that you would have taken certain things for granted for example how to wrestle and use fundamental footwork or how to use a sword to gain advantage in angle or leverage. I will also provide a glossary of period terms [appendix 1], and an index to The Works of George Silver (2008) [appendix 2] to aid the research of entry-level scholars and free scholars alike, indeed I hope they are able to use this as a stepping off point for their own further research.
1. Silver uses the term “gallants of Great Britain” Silver, op. cit. p.77 , a term first coined by James I Oct. 20th 1604 p.7 Hand 2003